The Value of Cap Space
It was, essentially, a trade of an imaginary number for a future possibility.
The deal involved three different players, of course, but none of them really mattered.
The San Jose Sharks, with lots of salary cap space going into the 2006-07 season, basically traded some of it on Sunday to the New Jersey Devils for a conditional first round pick.
The condition on the pick is that if the Devils miss the playoffs this year, the selection will be for the 2008 draft, not the '07 draft.
The Devils were finding themselves strangled by the $3.6 million attributed to the suspended/retired Vladimir Malakhov. The Sharks now theoretically own Malakhov, but since they don't have to pay him and are still well below the $44 million payroll maximum, it was no skin off their noses to take on the contract.
Malakhov's salary cap number, then, goes from being a major financial hindrance for the Devils to an imaginary figure with no impact on the Sharks, who get a first rounder they can use this winter to fortify their lineup like Edmonton (Dwayne Roloson, Sergei Samsonov) and Carolina (Doug Weight, Mark Recchi) did last season.
And none of the players involved in the Sharks-Devils trade - Malahkov, Jim Fahey, Alexander Korolyuk - really matter. That's the new NHL.
So where does this leave Jersey and their cap crunch?
The Devils have 14 players under contract for a cap figure of about $38 million. That includes Alexander Mogilny ($3.5 million) but doesn't include Richard Matvichuk ($1.4 million) and Jason Weimer ($950,000), both of whom will start the season on the injured list and therefore don't count against the cap.
That leaves Lou Lamoriello with about $6 million to spend on eight or nine players to fill out his roster by 3 p.m. Tuesday.
He needs to sign Brian Gionta and Paul Martin, neither of whom has played an exhibition game but are nonetheless with the club. Also unsigned are defenceman David Hale, winger Erik Rasmussen and backup goalie Scott Clemmensen, although all are supposed to have essentially agreed to terms.
The trick is that Lamoriello just needs to have a roster by Tuesday. He doesn't have to have all these players signed by then.
So he may fill out his lineup in the short-term with the likes of Travis Zajac, Johnny Oduya, Olli Malmivaara and Andy Greene, and gradually get Gionta et al signed once he clears out a bit more cap room.
The Devils GM may even begin the season this way. Don't forget, he had defenceman Tommy Albelin simply hang around the team last year practicing until he finally signed the veteran in December.
There were two other significant trades over the weekend:
If you didn't think the Canes could repeat last week, you might want to rethink that this week. Gleason helps a blueline that lost Aaron Ward and won't have Frantisek Kaberle for months, while Belanger is an underrated player who makes the club deep down the middle with Eric Staal and Rod Brind'Amour already in place.
Johnson didn't want to leave the University of Michigan and the Canes needed help now. If he turns out to be a star, they may eventually regret this deal. But not soon.
Two years ago, the threesome of Ribeiro, Jose Theodore and Pierre Dagenais were an irritant in the Canadiens organization for the way in which they ran together. Now all three have been rinsed from the organization.
Dallas, meanwhile, is a puzzle. They've taken the captaincy away from Mike Modano and given it to the newly rich Brenden Morrow, and they've added players like Eric Lindros, Matthew Barnaby, Patrik Stefan, Jeff Halpern and now Ribeiro. Not sure at all what direction this team is going.